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Doing Research

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Disagreement among sources

When you read, you will soon find out that not all sources agree with each other. This is something very common. However, it doesn’t mean that one source is right and the other one is wrong. Contradictory sources are extremely useful for argumentative papers. They present opposing viewpoints that you need to address. These are some points you need to keep in mind regarding source disagreement.

  • Context: Check if there are any contextual factors like gender, ethnicity, age, etc. that influenced the way an issue has been researched.
  • Dated information: Sometimes the information is not wrong it is just outdated. The information may have been correct, when the source was published, however, newer research may have revealed new facts.
  • Different definitions: Different authors define terms differently. This may affect how authors develop their ideas on a topic and may eventually prove that they don't actually disagree, but present a topic from different angles.
  • Different interpretations: Different authors interpret data in different ways. Two authors may be analysing the results of the same research study, however, they may end up with different conclusions.
  • The presence of bias: Bias in research can be intentional or unintentional. Usually we associate bias only with personal values and beliefs injected in the information. However, failing to include significant facts, built logical arguments, and come up with concrete conclusions is also a form of bias.

Logical fallacies

A fallacy is an idea that a lot of people think is true, but, is in fact, false. It is a failure in reasoning or a false assumption, which makes an argument invalid. A fallacy usually confuses the reader or oversimplifies a point. You should try to avoid these kinds of errors in your own writing. Then your paper will be stronger.

Check the table to understand the types of most common fallacies

 Fallacy  Definition  Example

Red herring | changing the subject

An argument that suggests or uses irrelevant or distracting points.

Why worry about drunk drivers when government is funding abortions?

Name–calling | ad hominem | personal attack

An argument that tries to generate doubt for a group of people or a person.

We shouldn’t listen to those who are in favor of banning the prayer before classes begin. They are all atheists.

Straw man

An argument that deliberately uses a fake issue to argue against because it's easier to prove wrong than the real issue would be.

People who are in favor of the legalization of marijuana do not respect the law.

Post hoc fallacy | false cause

An argument that tries to prove that because something happened first, it must have caused something else.

Teenage pregnancy has increased since sex education was introduced to schools.

Appeal to popularity | bandwagon appeal

An argument suggesting that if the vast majority of people believes in something then this is true or valid.

Abortion is wrong. One hundred million Christians can’t be wrong that it is.

Appeal to ignorance

An argument suggesting that something that hasn’t been proved wrong is implies to be right.

Crystal kids exist because no one has proved otherwise.

Slippery slope argument

An argument stating that one thing inevitably leads to other, more serious things.

If the government legalize cremation, next it will support assisted suicide.

Hasty generalization

An argument that uses a limited sample to generate conclusions about a larger population.

John smoked four packs of cigarettes a day since the age of fourteen and lived until the age of seventy. Therefore, smoking really can’t be that bad.

Appeal to authority | testimonial

An argument that tries to make a case for something because someone with authority either does or endorses the action or idea.

Kim Kardashian followed the Atkins diet to lose her post-baby weight quickly. So, this diet must work.

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